Prevalence of child marriage in the district despite the formulation of numerous stringent laws and social schemes for women empowerment has become a cause of concern.
According to the Women and Child Development Department, 62 cases of child marriages were reported between April 2011 and April 2012.
The Department officials in association with Birds, a non-governmental organisation, rescued child brides in 60 cases.
Mandya tops the taluks where 25 child marriages were reported, followed by Srirangapatna with 12 cases; eight in Malavalli, five in Nagamangala, four each in Pandavapur and Maddur, and two cases in Krishnarajpet.
In KR Pet and Panadavpur taluks, two cases were booked against the parents for continuing with the wedding plans even after they were warned of the legal consequences by the officials.
Such offenders would be ripped of all the benefits given by the government, and if arrested, they would be sentenced to two-year rigourous imprisonment and fine up to Rs one lakh.
Four cases were reported between April 2010 and April 2011. However, there could be more instances of child marriages held surreptitiously. For, the Child and Women Development Department has not registered any cases of child marriages since 2006, but for the above mentioned 60 cases in the past two years.
According to Venkatesh, a member of the Birds, on an average, 15 child marriages are held every month in the district.
As many as 20 child marriages were prevented in May this year alone, he said. Ironically, the number of early marriages has increased since the year-long campaign against the child marriage was launched in November 2011.
The number of child marriages have increased in Mandya, Nagamangala, Malavalli and Srirangapatnam, he added. Most of the marriages involve minor girls from economically and socially backward families in rural areas.
Apart from the poverty, the parents’ fear of girl’s sexuality and the anxiety that the daughters may fall in love if they go to colleges, drive them to marry off the children at young age, Venkatesh said.
In several instances, the officials and the volunteers received threats from the influential persons and supporters of the local leaders when they went to rescue the child brides.
The awareness programmes taken up to sensitise the public on illegal practice of child marriage and its adverse impact on children, family and society, have not yielded desired effect.
The law on prohibition of child marriages and women empowerment programmes by the government have also failed to dissuade people from the evil practice, Venkatesh said.